George F. Will: Democrats’ California dreamin’
On a recent Sunday, Katie Hill, 30, whose father is an L.A. police lieutenant, boarded a red-eye flight to Washington for frenetic fundraising and networking. She must really want to get into the House of Representatives. If she does, she will have defeated two-term incumbent Rep. Steve Knight, 51, who was an L.A. police officer for 18 years.
California’s 25th District includes Simi Valley, famous as the home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the trial of police officers charged with brutality against Rodney King. It is home to many police who helped quell rioting after the accused officers’ acquittal. Hill’s father-in-law, too, is a cop; her husband’s uncle was an officer whose killing in the line of duty is Orange County’s only unsolved police murder. In the June 5 primary, Hill will be the first Democrat to receive her father’s vote.
The 25th tops the list of seven (of 14) Republican-held California seats that Democrats hope to capture because Hillary Clinton carried them. Democratic consultant Joe Trippi, who was media adviser to Doug Jones’ successful Alabama U.S. Senate campaign, says Jones got votes from Republicans who still support the president but want no more chaos. But referring to California Democrats, he warns that “our own enthusiasm might get in the way.”
This is because in 2012, Democrats — who run this almost monochrome blue state — instituted a primary system under which the top two vote-getters for an office are on the November ballot, even if both are from the same party. This year, Democrats, fueled by fury against the president, might produce so many candidates that the Democratic vote will be fragmented, putting weak general-election Democrats, or no Democrats, on some November ballots.
Congressional districts drawn by Republican state legislatures after the 2010 census and that year’s anti-Democratic wave election might somewhat insulate Republicans from a “blue wave” this year. But for eight years, the 25th, now 39 percent Latino, has seen an influx of “housing refugees” — people of modest means who bring the city’s political sensibility when seeking affordable housing outside it.
Donald Trump did worse there in 2016 (31.6 percent of the vote) than Herbert Hoover did against Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 (37.4). Yes, Hoover was a California resident, but national unemployment was 24.7 percent. The district is more than one-third Democratic, about one-third Republican, and one-quarter independent.
Being 30 is another Hill advantage. In 2008, Barack Obama carried national voters under age 45 by 15 points. In Alabama in December, Jones carried that age cohort by around 20 points. Suburban women — the 25th District has many — also are recoiling against Republicans. The Economist reports that, nationally, “around 400 women, mostly Democrats, are planning to run for the House, at least 50 for the Senate … . In 2015 and 2016, around 900 women consulted Emily’s List” — which supports women candidates — “about standing for office; since Mr. Trump’s election, over 26,000 have.” One of them recently took a red-eye to get on Emily’s List.
George F. Will is a columnist for Newsweek and The Washington Post.